Suggested Movies and Books
God Grew Tired of Us– Explores the indomitable spirit of three “Lost Boys” from the Sudan who are forced to leave their homeland due to a tumultuous civil war. The documentary chronicles their triumph over seemingly insurmountable adversities and a re-location to America. An extremely poignant story of courageous young men.
Gorillas in the Mist– Based on the true story of scientist Dian Fossey who settles in the Congolese jungle to study and protect mountain gorillas. Sigourney Weaver stars in this movie, an above average for Hollywood-Africa dramas. Filmed in Kenya.
Out of Africa– With Meryl Streep, Robert Redford and Klaus Maria Brandauer. Big Hollywood movie about the Danish Author Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) and her life as a coffee farmer in Kenya. Great pictures, dramatic and with a well told story, but most of all typical Hollywood-style story from the beautiful and colorful Africa: The white people enjoy life with tea, horse riding and safaris with Mozart on the turntable. No, or very little, effort is put in describing the lives of the true owners of the Kenyan country, who had to pay the price for the shameless behaviour of the colonists.
The Constant Gardener– Romantic thriller by Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles (City of God) based on the bestselling novel by British author John Le Carré. The movie is about foul play by the pharmaceutical industry and takes place mainly in Kenya, where it was also shot. The book was something of an eye-opener about the pharmaceutical industry and their involvement in Africa. Don’t miss this great movie starring Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Hubert Koundé and more.
The First Grader– is a 2010 biographical drama film based on the true story of Kimani Maruge, a Kenyan man who enrolled in elementary education at the age of 84 after the Kenyan government announced universal and free elementary education in 2003. The British-produced film was shot on location in the Rift Valley in Kenya, despite earlier reports that it would be filmed in South Africa. Director Justin Chadwick said: “We could have shot it in South Africa, but Kenya has this unbelievable, inexplicable energy – inherent in the children, and the people we were making the film about”.
The Last King of Scotland– Despite its title, the movie is set in Uganda during the 70’s horror-regime of dictator Idi Amin. The movie follows Amin’s personal physician and his growing moral dilemmas. A young Scottish doctor goes to Africa in search of adventure and with a wonderful (rare!) open mind. But gets himself a bit too close to the action. Amin gets a personality and as the physician, we (the audience) are tempted to like him though he was no doubt a psychopath killer. The horror and violence are not ignored, but described in a way that makes it possible to watch the movie. The storyline about the doctor is not a “true story” but nevertheless a good story telling many truths. Great movie with a fantastic performance by Forrest Whitaker. The description of the European man meeting Africa is very different, free from prejudices and far better than seen in most other movies. Filmed on location in UK and Uganda.
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency– A wonderful series of 4 DVDs based on the books written by Alexander McCall Smith. Films are a humorous, insightful commentary on African men and women, a day to day life in general. Fun and educational.
Facing Mt. Kenya by Jomo Kenyatta – “Jomo Kenyatta, the grandson of a Kikuyu medicine man, was among the foremost leaders of African nationalism… Facing Mt. Kenya is an invaluable key to the structure of African society and the nature of the African mind.” A very comprehensive look at the Kikuyus, the largest tribe in Kenya. 306pages
Facing the Lion: Growing Up Maasai on the African Savannah by Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton – Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton grew up in Nomadic Kenya, attended St. Lawrence University and Harvard, and taught at Langley School in McLean and has been elected to the legislature in Kenya. A wonderful background to have before working with the PCDA Maasai children. 123pages
Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag on Kenya by Caroline Elkins – The New Yorker declares this book as “an extraordinary act of historical recovery,” and is it certainly no light read. Learn about the collapse of the British colonial period and the Mau Mau revolution in a way no other historical text has described. Gives insight to what makes the modern Kenyan tick. 496pages
The Elephant Whisperer: My Light with the Herd in the African Wild by Lawrence Anthony – Irene Pepperberg states, “A lovingly written tale of close encounters, some beautiful and some frightening, with humans and nonhumans alike. Anthony’s story of his trials and tribulations in preserving a herd of African elephants is a parable for the continent.” A perfect read before safari. 386pages
The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (series) by Alexander McCall Smith – A wonderful series depicting everyday life in Sub-Saharan Africa. Books are humorous yet insightful commentaries on African men and women, and life in general. Also available on DVD. 227pages
Unbowed by Wangari Maathai – Alexandra Fuller writes, “Wangari Maathai is a prophet for our time, and Unbowed is a call to arms for all of us who feel the planet is overwhelmed by careless, corrupt, or violent leadership. I have long suspected that the voice to lead us forward would come out of Africa, and it has – a voice of humor, sense, strength, and compassion. Read this book and pass it on.” KEST travelers will walk on the paths following Wangari’s footsteps. 303pages
We Are All the Same: The Story of a Boy’s Courage and a Mother’s Love by Jim Wooten – Jim Lehrer says, “no one who reads this book will ever forget it.” This is the story of an HIV+ child and his mother who legalizes access to public education for the South Africans, regardless of health status. It relates well to Father D’Agostino’s efforts to get Nyumbani children admitted to public schools. 243pages
What is the What by Dave Eggers – The story of a boy fleeing from his village during the Sudanese civil war. Deng looks for sanctuary in both Ethiopia and Kenya before being resettled in the US. Also available on DVD as “God Grew Tired of Us” 475pages